By Matt Stefano
Last night marked the home and season opener for the defending NOJHL and Central Canada champion Soo Thunderbirds at the Essar Centre. It also marked the return of the Soo Eagles back to the NOJHL for the first time since 2011-2012 and once again the cross border rivalry tradition was back.
Prior to the start of last night’s game, staff and player introductions took place which was followed by a pre game ceremony with the Dudley Hewitt Cup. It also featured a few T-Bird alumni from both the 2012 and 2015 Dudley Hewitt Cup teams. A video tribute of last year’s Dudley Hewitt Cup team was also shown as part of the opening ceremony.
The Thunderbirds defeated the Soo Eagles 5-2 to open up the 2015-2016 season with a 1-0 record.
“We have our rivals already and you can see it from the pace out there,” said T-Birds forward Jaren Bellini. “I think we had a good game and a good way to start off the year.”
“It’s good to come back after winning the Dudley Hewitt Cup with them last year but then again we have to turn the page and focus on this year,” Bellini added.
Matt Pinder, Joey Miller, Jaren Bellini, Ryan Mulligan and Caleb Boman all had the goals for the T-Birds. Darian Pilon led the way offensively setting up three goals while his brother Drake also notched a pair of helpers. Single assists went to Matt Busby, Caleb Boman, Brett Jeffries and Mark Tassone.
Prince George BC, native Nathan Warren turned aside 21 shots for the T-Birds win.
Eagle goals went to Jacob Palmerio (penalty shot) and Nate Harris. Kendall Huckins got the scoreboard with one assist.
The Thunderbirds will now cross the International Bridge over to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan tonight to take on the Soo Eagles at 7:00 p.m. from Pullar Stadium.
NOTE: Last night’s contest also marked the 100th career game for Soo Thunderbirds forward and assistant captain Matt Mitchell.